After three long years without our annual Office Study Trip, JTP was thrilled to return to our yearly tradition on Friday 7 October as we headed to Antwerp, Belgium for a weekend of sight-seeing, guided study tours, team-building, waffles and, of course, Belgium beer.
A port city on Belgium’s River Scheldt and known as the diamond capital of the world, our visit to Antwerp presented an opportunity to learn about the historic growth of the city and the regeneration being undertaken.
Our journey began on Friday morning when a miracle took place as no passports, tickets (or indeed people) were forgotten with everyone making their trains and connections to arrive in Antwerp by early afternoon. A daring JTP Associate, Dave Swindells even decided to bike the final leg of the journey from Brussels to Antwerp, cycling on a Brompton the 46km journey on the F1 cycle highway that connects Antwerp with Belgium’s capital.
The weather welcomed us to the beautiful city, greeting us with a crisp blue sky and sunshine as we enjoyed our first watering hole of the trip before check-in. After free time exploring the city, the day culminated with everyone reuniting at Caffè Barbossa – a quirky bar in the heart of the city – to share the first tales of our trip so far.
The early Antwerp dawn was graced with the presence of our dedicated JTP Pacemakers who started off their Saturday with a morning run. At 9.30am backpacks and cameras were at the ready as the JTP team were divided into three groups to head off on guided tours exploring the architecture, quarters, and residential districts of Antwerp.
First stop on the study trip was Zuid – a new innovative urban district south of the city. The mixed-use quarter showcased homes, public facilities, and green spaces in the form of parks, small city gardens, squares, and green residential streets. By 2028, the district is expected to include 2,000 homes with over 5,000 inhabitants in the Nieuw Zuid, known as the New South.
After a short lunch break taking in the local cafés and eateries, we were treated to the new green, car-free oasis of Groen Kwartier (Green Quarter). The new residential quarter on a former military hospital site was a firm favourite and point of interest for all three groups as we admired the quirks, foliage and beauty of the existing and new buildings. With not a car in sight, the Groen Kwartier had an air of tranquility, showcasing a successful neighbourhood designed around putting people and placemaking first.
Embracing our own ethos, we then took a walk through Park Spoor Noord where new life has been breathed into the abandoned 24 hectare railway marshalling yard. Transformed into a vibrant panoramic green park emphasising greenery, light, leisure, culture, sport and events.
One of our final stops of the day was the dockland regeneration of Cadix – the largest initiative in Antwerp’s ambitious urban vision. Boasting a stunning waterside setting, the mix of scale and uses aims to reconnect the urban fabric of the former port to the vibrant life of the city centre to the south.
Our Saturday was concluded with a JTP evening meal and a game of ‘Guess Who’ led by our Managing Partner, Marcus Adams, as we uncovered the secret and surprising talents of our new starters and colleagues over some delicious food and drink.
After a busy and active weekend, our team waved goodbye to the city on Sunday afternoon to return home.
Chosen for its easy accessibility by the Eurostar, Antwerp surprised and delighted us. With its unique quirks, stunning architecture, and impressive public realm, our team were charmed by what the city had to offer. It highlighted how such contrasting areas and buildings can be unified by exceptional public realm to provide spaces that are truly designed for all users.
Antwerp proved to be a very special place and spoiled us with a fascinating array of sights, spaces, and buildings that will last in our memory.